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11 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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Is Germany Lurching To the Right?

Right-wing agitators are heating up the discussion about immigration in Germany and filling it with hate. Last week’s resignation of national football player Mesut Özil over concerns about racism is spurring a necessary and emotional debate about social cohesion in the country.

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"Munich is diverse:" Protesters at a demonstration in the Bavarian capital

“Munich is diverse:” Protesters at a demonstration in the Bavarian capital

Geisenhausen is a village in Bavaria, a bastion of support for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party. It’s also the place where retiree Karl Meyer boarded a train to Munich with anger in the pit of his stomach. He had painted a sign with a Bavarian swear word and a boat on which it said “Christian Social Inhumanity” with stick figures clinging to its sides.

Meyer, 67, a trained heating installer, wanted to protest in the state capital against “the nationalism that has brought so much calamity into the world” and against the representatives of the CSU, whom he feels no longer represent him. “I favor a different kind of country,” says Meyer. His dialect betrays the fact that he lives in Bavaria, but he is trying to hide his origins. “I’m ashamed to be Bavarian,” he says.

Just over a week has passed since the protest, and the country has quickly moved on to a different topic, with the resignation of Mesut Özil from the national football team dominating the headlines. But Karl Meyer can’t forget the protest, attended by several tens of thousands of people, so quickly, because it was only the second in his life. He had only gone to a protest once before, against a nuclear power plant located near his village.

Now, he once again finds himself sitting in Geisenhausen and looking to Munich and Berlin with a mixture of astonishment and anger: He has read in his local newspaper that the economy grew by 2.2 percent in 2017 and that the unemployment figures in June are lower than at any other time since German reunification. And still all this hate. He doesn’t understand where it’s coming from.

At the moment, right-wing agitators are shaping the discourse in Germany. They want to “dispose of” fellow citizens in Anatolia or spur a “conservative revolution.” But they are also being countered by members of the radical left, who, like a small number of the protestors on July 22 in Munich, believe that we are on the verge of seeing a “Fourth Reich” take power. The many people at the center of German society are having difficulty understanding the aggressive tones the debate is starting to take.

Among those at the center of society are people with and without immigrant backgrounds, third-generation immigrants who are self-evidently integrated but are now asking themselves if they are truly wanted in this country, people working to help refugees who have the feeling they need to justify their work, but also people who voted for conservative parties and dislike the polarization. And high-ranking government representatives who are worried about the country’s social cohesion, like Andreas Vosskuhle, the president of the Federal Constitutional Court, who has complained of an “unacceptable” rhetoric being used by leading CSU politicians.

“Our skill within the Christian Democrats was always being able to hold together different directions. We failed to do this in the conflict during the last few weeks,” says German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who is a member of the Christian Democratic Union, which shares power at the national level with the CSU, it’s Bavarian sister party.

A sizeable majority of Germans are concerned. According to one poll, commissioned by DER SPIEGEL several days ago, over two-thirds of Germans decry the coarsening of the political debate. Just as many respondents are seeing a rightward tilt in German politics.

A Necessary Debate

The uncertainty can be felt everywhere in German society — in families, where parents and children debate about refugee policy, in schools fighting against anti-Semitism and racism, and in Bavarian government offices, where the cross must now be affixed as a symbol of what state officials regard to be the “Leitkultur,” or guiding culture. With the discussion surrounding Özil, the insecurity has once again grown a bit greater.

“I am a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” the professional football player tweeted on July 22. Within just a few days, he became a personality upon whom people could project their feelings, with some viewing him as a spoiled millionaire and others as a victim of prejudice.

Most Germans now view Özil critically. According to a DER SPIEGEL poll, 58 per cent believe the footballer was treated disrespectfully and in a racist manner, and only 27 percent regret his resignation from the national team.

But Özil’s resignation is merely an opportunity for a necessary debate about marginalization and social cohesion.

Germany has been debating whether it is a country of immigration since the first guest workers arrived from Turkey and Italy during the 1950s and 1960s. With the reform of citizenship rights in 2000, which made it possible for children born here to foreign parents to receive a German passport, the question seemed to be answered with a “yes.”

And now? The frustration and sense of being affronted described in Özil’s statement of resignation are familiar to many people with an immigration background. The children of immigrants still feel that they are placed at a disadvantage when it comes to school, apartment hunts or the job market. And given the continuing battle over refugee policies, anti-migrant reflexes have grown stronger and not weaker.

There is a double alienation at work: Migrants are feeling alienated by Germany because parts of Germany are alienating themselves from migrants.

A Rightward Tilt?

Gerd Thomas has been involved with the FC Internationale Berlin football club for 15 years, first as a coach, and later as chairman of the board. There is no advertising on the team’s jersey, just the slogan: “No racism.” The club includes people with roots in more than 70 countries.

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Court finds in favor of DeWayne Johnson, ill man who was first to take Roundup maker to trial over allegations

Dewayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month.

DeWayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month. Photograph: Pool New/Reuters

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

In the extraordinary verdict, which Monsanto said it intends to appeal, the jury ruled that the company was responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”.

“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that … Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. The verdict, he added, sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.

Speaking in San Francisco on Friday, Johnson said that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit. He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of similar lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson’s case was particularly significant because a judge allowed his team to present scientific arguments. The dispute centered on glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The verdict came a month after a federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of the deceased could bring similar claims forward in another trial.

During the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys brought forward internal emails from Monsanto executives that they said demonstrated how the corporation repeatedly ignored experts’ warnings, sought favorable scientific analyses and helped to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged continued usage.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer and presented studies during trial that countered the research and testimony submitted by Johnson’s team. The herbicide is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, but in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, triggering a wave of legal and legislative challenges.

Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, released a statement after the verdict asserting that “glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer”, adding: “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”

The company was “sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family”, the statement added.

Partridge also pointed to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s previous findings approving the use of glyphosate. Numerous other countries and governments, however, have banned or restricted the herbicide due to health concerns.

Johnson, 46, is a father of three who worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for the school district in Benicia, a suburb just north of San Francisco. That position began in 2012, and he testified that it involved him spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds, sometimes for several hours a day.

He argued that his exposure to the chemicals caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer, and when he took the stand, he discussed his pain and suffering as skin lesions took over his body.

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson, who goes by the name Lee, testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.”

He also testified that Monsanto should not have let him use the herbicide near schoolchildren, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

Johnson may have just months to live, according to his doctors. His wife testified that she has had to work two jobs, sometimes with 14-hour days, to help pay for the medical bills.

The financial award included past and future economic losses and punitive damages.

Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to begin in the fall in St Louis, Missouri. According to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US.

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World Politics

United States

  • Players across the league raise awareness of social injustice

  • NFL has attempted to introduce policy to stamp out anthem protests

The Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn (94) raises his right fist during the singing of the national anthem. Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Donald Trump has expressed his displeasure after player demonstrations took place during the national anthem in the first round of NFL preseason games on Thursday night.

“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” the US president tweeted on Friday morning. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love……”

While players from several teams protested, only two – Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins – knelt during the anthem. Their teammate Robert Quinn stood for the anthem before the game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but raised his right fist as it played. In Philadelphia, Malcolm Jenkins and De’Vante Bausby raised their fists during the anthem, and the defensive end Chris Long placed his arm around Jenkins’s shoulder. Their fellow Eagles player Michael Bennett, who has been vocal on social issues, walked out of the tunnel during the anthem. Elsewhere, several players from the Seattle Seahawks and the Jacksonville Jaguars stayed in the locker room while the Star-Spangled Banner played before their games.

The anthem protests started during preseason two years ago when San Francisco 49ers players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid knelt during the anthem to protest social injustice in the United States. Both Kaepernick and Reid have been unable to find teams willing to sign them this season, and have filed collusion grievances against the NFL alleging they have been kept out of the league due to their political stances.

Despite the president’s assertion that players were unable to define what they were protesting about, several players made statements clarifying their positions on Thursday. “Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color,” wrote Jenkins on Twitter before Thursday’s game. “The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies…”…………….The protest has been a focus of Trump’s ire throughout his presidency. Last year he said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.’” He has also blamed the protests for a fall in the NFL’s TV ratings.

Last week Trump attacked LeBron James, perhaps the most famous athlete in America. The president tweeted that CNN host Don Lemon “made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do”, in response to a conversation the two men had about Trump’s previous criticism of black athletes, including Kaepernick. Lemon accused Trump of racism over the incident. “Let me not mince words here. This president traffics in racism and is fueled by bullying,” he said. “From keeping children at the border in cages to bullying journalists at his rallies every chance that he gets. President Trump is trying a divide and conquer strategy here and here’s how it goes … The overwhelming negative response to his unfair and unkind attack on a good man, LeBron James, shows America rejects what he is peddling.”

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Proposed offshore island to protect a haunt of Sinatra and Dietrich would be its ruin, says long-time mayor

The beach at Knokke-Heist.

The beach at Knokke-Heist, a magnet for tourists. Photograph: Alamy

It is known affectionately as Belgium’s answer to St Tropez – a town once frequented by Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich and which has inspired the pop art of Keith Haring and surrealism of René Magritte, who painted the walls of the town’s casino.

But now the chic, if slightly faded, seaside resort of Knokke-Heist is, in the words of its mayor, Count Leopold Lippens, in a “fight for its life”. The Flemish government, in an attempt to limit the damage to the Belgian coast from rising sea levels, has announced plans for an artificial island of 40 hectares (99 acres) 1.2 kilometres from the sandy beach, to act as a bulwark against the waves. Belgium has, until now, been slow to respond to climate change and its coast has suffered severe damage during recent storms.

Rather than saving Knokke-Heist, however, Lippens and others claim, the plan will create a calm channel of water in front of its beach, perfect for the barges, spewing oil and waste, that travel in and out of the port of Zeebrugge. “We would be an industrial harbour with a kind of open sewer in front of us,” Lippens said. “The island is to be 1.2km from the coast, so the boats would be 330 metres [away]. No one could swim or windsurf. It would be the end of tourism in Knokke-Heist, which would be very sad. That is why we are fighting for our lives.”

Lippens, mayor since 1979, said the municipality’s tourism revenues of €700m a year would be halved should the plans be approved. “We have to beat this,” he said. The 77-year-old has hired specialist lawyers to fight his corner.

The threat of rising waters is not unappreciated by the authorities in Knokke-Heist, a favourite hideout of the Belgian king, Philippe, and popular with artists since the Belgian painters James Ensor and Alfred Verwee captured its vistas on canvas in the early 19th century. The sea is expected to rise by 30cm by 2050 and 80cm by the end of the century. In 2016, Storm Dieter brought waves around two metres high crashing onto the front. About €17m was invested in a rebuilding programme, which included the replacement of 1.2m cubic metres of sand.

Lippens says studies by the authorities in the Netherlands suggest better solutions. “It is the dredging companies who are pushing for the work to make the island because the Chinese have taken a lot of jobs away,” he said. “In Holland, where the land is much lower than in Belgium, they have studied all the systems, studied the islands, and it would be worse than just using more and more sand on the beaches. That is what they are doing and that is what we want.”

Not everyone agrees. Cathy Coudyser, who sits for the Flemish nationalist party, the N-VA, in the Flemish parliament and on the city council, said Lippens, a member of the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams party, was playing politics before an October election.

She told the Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad: “We have explained to Mayor Lippens the plan several times. Still, he continues to send wrong information to the world without blinking, including on the website of the municipality.

“Doing nothing is not an option for Knokke,” she added. “The coast in Knokke is a weak zone, which is severely affected by a violent storm, probably with a lot of damage and heavy flooding.

“Several other options have been studied, such as raising the sea dyke. But then the apartments would disappear behind a concrete wall. That seems to us a much worse solution.”

The Flemish government has already released €8m for the island, which is part of its 2020-26 coastal management plans.

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